News & Politics

Did the Texas Senate Really Just Defend the Ku Klux Klan?

(AP Photo, File)

On Friday, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 3, a bill regarding public school curriculum in the Lone Star State. Some news outlets reported that S.B. 3 had removed a requirement that teachers teach kids that the Ku Klux Klan was “morally wrong.” Many Democrats and leftist commentators rushed to claim that the bill thus supports the Ku Klux Klan, but S.B. 3 still prohibits teachers from praising racism or slavery.

“Greg Abbott trying to erase MLK Jr., César Chávez, and Susan B. Anthony from the Texas curriculum, and recast the KKK as the good guys. This is an assault on history and it must be stopped,” former HUD secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro declared on Twitter.

Ku Klux Klan Texas Julian Castro Republicans
Twitter screenshot.

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“Now they’re banning teachers saying murderous terrorism by white supremacists cowering under sheets is bad? The only people that’s going to make uncomfortable are white supremacist cowards. I guess that’s who calls the shots in Texas,” Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under President Barack Obama, tweeted.

Ku Klux Klan Texas Walter Shaub Republicans
Twitter screenshot.

“Here’s why Governor Abbott added Critical Race Theory to the special session. He doesn’t want our kids to learn that White Supremacy is morally wrong. You read that right,” Texas State Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D), one of the Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., to stop the special session, tweeted.

“If calling the Ku Klux Klan morally wrong is a bridge too far for your party it’s time to leave it,” Democratic activist Chris Hahn tweeted to his 50,000+ followers.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow warned that this move was repeating history, a creeping Jim Crow in Texas. “When Jim Crow was first established, the process was slow, one outrage at a time. The state laws were systematically altered over a decade. I’m sure some ppl thought, ‘look at that, another crazy thing’ and went on with their lives. DON’T REPEAT HISTORY,” he tweeted.

Make no mistake: Texas Republicans do not support the Ku Klux Klan. The truth is far more complicated — and more boring — than that. I read S.B. 3, and I can positively say that it does not present the Klan as “the good guys” or ban educators from teaching that the Klan is bad.

S.B. 3 — which has been delayed by the Democrats skipping off to Washington, D.C., to prevent the Texas House from getting anything done (and spreading COVID-19 while they’re at it) — aims to repeal certain teaching requirements in House Bill 3979, which the legislature passed and Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signed in June.

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Abbott hailed the legislation as an attack on Marxist critical race theory (CRT), but it arguably included too many specific requirements for public history education. Among other things, H.B. 3979 required teachers to equip students with an understand of “historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations,” The Hill reported.

That section included “the Chicano movement,” “women’s suffrage and equal rights,” “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech, “the history and importance of the women’s suffrage movement” and “the works of Susan B. Anthony,” among other requirements.

S.B. 3 does not mention those requirements, however. It appears that the new legislation would remove those requirements.

Yet that does not mean that Texas Republicans think kids should not learn about the Chicano movement, women’s suffrage, Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring rhetoric, or the evils of the Ku Klux Klan. It merely means that Texas will no longer require those specific lessons.

S.B. 3 still includes more vague requirements that teachers teach kids about “the history and importance of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964” and the “Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” a reference to the amendments banning slavery, extending civil rights to minorities, and giving women the right to vote.

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In fact, S.B. 3 explicitly bans educators from including racist teachings in the curriculum, either in the old form of anti-black racism or in the new form of blaming people for the sins of their alleged ancestors.

According to S.B. 3, “a teacher, administrator, or other employee of a state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not” “require or make part of a course inculcation in the concept that” “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”

The bill would also ban educators from requiring the teaching that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;” that “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual ’s race or sex;” that “an individual ’s moral character, standing, or worth is necessarily determined by the individual’s race or sex;” and that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”

S.B. 3 also bans educators from teaching that “with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”

S.B. 3 would also ban the original claim of The New York Times‘s “1619 Project.” It aims to forbid mandatory inculcation of the claim that “the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States.” It also forbids teachers from requiring “an understanding of the 1619 Project.”

The bill also mandates that the State Board of Education “shall adopt essential knowledge and skills that develop each student’s civic knowledge,” including an understanding of the founding documents, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the diversity of the Hispanic population in Texas, among other things.

So, if S.B. 3 is not a subtle attempt to restore the Ku Klux Klan, why remove the requirement that educators teach that the notorious racist terror organization is “morally wrong”?

The bill’s author, state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), laid out the rationale in a statement to Bloomberg Law.

“What we’re doing with this bill, we’re saying that specific reading list doesn’t belong in statute,” Hughes said. He said the Board of Education should make sure that those kinds of items are included in teaching standards, but the decision should not rest with the state legislature, but with parents and local leaders.

“Not just politicians but teachers and parents and administrators have a say in that process,” Hughes insisted.

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Texas Republicans do not support the Ku Klux Klan. Their bill still bans educators from teaching racism. They merely want to give parents, teachers, and local administrators more say over the actual curriculum.

Contrary to Shaub, nowhere does S.B. 3 ban the teaching that white supremacist terrorism is bad. Contrary to Julian Castro, the bill does not “recast the KKK as the good guys.” Perhaps these esteemed “public servants” should actually read the bill before they spread outright lies about it.